Posted on May 24, 2018 by staff

‘Breakthrough partnership’ to reduce A&E waiting times


Two leading organisations in healthcare, data science and artificial intelligence have come together to ‘revolutionise’ some of the everyday challenges faced by the NHS.

The Alan Turing Institute and the Royal College Hospital London (UCLH) plan to harness the power of data science and AI to support clinical decision-making as part of a new three-year partnership.

One key area of focus will be how the A&E department runs, which is viewed as a barometer of how the rest of the hospital and the wider system is working.

UCLH chief executive Professor Marcel Levi says the hospital’s performance this year has fallen short of the national average waiting time of four hours.

He said: “Imagine a scenario where patients present to A&E with abdomen pain – our standard response is to check bloods, order X-rays or scans and in probably about 80 per cent of cases, discharge for home management.

“What, if through analysis of thousands of similar scenarios, we were able to identify patterns in the initial presentation of the 20 per cent with serious conditions, such as intestinal perforation or severe infections?

“This could enable us to fast track them through to a scan and a swift diagnosis and could support clinical decision making to manage the 80 per cent who need no further clinical input more effectively.”

Levi went on to say that machines will “never replace doctors” but stressed that the use of data, expertise and technology can radically change how the hospital manages its services.

“With ever increasing numbers of patients and ongoing financial pressures, we need to try something different, something innovative, something longer-term,” he added.

The NHS routinely collects data that is analysed to develop research, track performance and measure outcomes.

But according to Professor Bryan Williams, director of the NIHR University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre and director of research at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, much more could be done.

He said: “Imagine a world where we could use this data to develop algorithms to rule out diseases, suggest treatment plans or predict behaviour….that is more than possible with the wealth of data we have available and the expertise at The Alan Turing Institute. The partnership has the potential to tackle some of the big issues that the NHS has never been able to solve.”

Another objective of the partnership is to understand and improve the flow of staff and patients through the hospital.

Researchers at The Alan Turing Institute and the NIHR UCLH BRC will apply artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques to large existing data sets on how people move through the departments of the hospital.

Their analyses will track down bottlenecks, hurdles and downtime in how the hospital operates, which can then be tackled to improve efficiency and help patients get seen faster and more effectively.